We were expecting a long, crazy night last night with lots of noise and fireworks, but it actually wasn’t too bad this year. Rain arriving at around 10:30 quieted things down quickly, and it never really picked up again until midnight. New Years is the BIG holiday here on the islands, and fireworks start as soon as it starts to get dark, and go on until a little after midnight, ending with lots and lots of very loud stuff. Our neighbors set off I don’t know how many strings of firecrackers at the same time right after midnight – the noise was, shall we say, impressive. Here at Casa Aloha, we stayed inside, watched TV, and waited up until midnight to greet the new year. This year was Brett’s and my 40th time to ring in the new year – we’ve been together for every New Year’s Eve since 1977 except for 1991, when he was deployed to the Persian Gulf for Operation Desert Storm.
The girls got a wonderful surprise this past week from their grandmother. My mom always gave each of her grandchildren the choice of $1000 cash or an international trip with her (worth more than $1K) when they graduated from high school. However, by the time our girls, her three youngest grandchildren, were ready to graduate, Mom’s memory had deteriorated and there were no gifts for either Meiling or WenYu. When my brother went through Mom’s safe deposit box week before last he discovered three envelopes with $1000 in each that had been set aside for the girls when they were adopted but had been forgotten. So, each girl received their graduation gift this past week (YaYu got hers early) from their grandmother! There are no constraints on how the money has to be used, but all three girls put the money into savings and plan use it to help with college expenses next year.
The weather here on the island remains cool and rainy. It’s actually quite nice today for a change, with blue skies and fluffy clouds, but still cool and breezy. The whole last month was one of those where I’ve been glad we live here rather than having spent a whole lot of money to come and visit. It’s definitely not been beach weather, and there have been days we’ve been stuck inside because of the rain.
This afternoon I am:
- Reading: I’m still reading For the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki and enjoying it. The biggest problem I’ve having with reading now is that I’m tired at night and fall asleep sooner than I’d like. Up on deck is a mystery by a new author (for me).
- Listening to: The roosters have been exceptionally loud this morning; I guess now that all of last night’s noise is over they figure it’s their turn. The washer and dryer are also doing their thing across the room.
- Watching: Brett and I have been watching The Killing on Netflix, another police procedural. With most shows we watch a couple of episodes, but with this one we’ve been watching three at a time because we have to know what happens next, and the story is quite convoluted. Tonight we’ll be watching the first episode of Sherlock for the season, and then next week will get back into American Horror Story, Season Five.
- Cooking/baking: The days on this week’s menu have gotten switched around for a variety of reasons, so tonight we’re having the butternut squash ravioli with Alfredo sauce that was going to be for tomorrow. I’m going to make an olive oil orange cake later this afternoon for our dessert.
- Happy I accomplished this past week: We got all of our Christmas things packed up and put away for next year. It now takes us longer to set it all up than it does to put it all away, which sure didn’t use to be the case. We follow the Japanese tradition for the new year, so the house was cleaned from top to bottom and all bills paid so we could start 2017 with a “clean slate.” I did all of my bike rides (same stats as last week), and drank at least eight glasses of water and studied Portuguese and Japanese every day this past week. I also worked in my coloring book almost every day, and finished my first page. Brett and I got all our food shopping done for the month except for three things and our weekly trips to the farmers’ market.
- Looking forward to next week: In a few minutes we’re heading out to see Moana, a gift from WenYu. Otherwise, I’m pretty much looking forward to just relaxing and hanging out with Brett, WenYu and YaYu for most of the week. There’s nothing on the calendar for any of us other than swim practice for YaYu in the afternoons. She has a meet next Saturday morning followed by a potluck that we’ll all attend – we’re bringing a fruit platter.
- Thinking of good things that happened: Besides the surprise gifts for the girls, Brett and I were able to put $38.87 into our change/$1 bill jar this week. The girls owed us some money and paid us in $1 bills, so of course it has to be saved! We spent $60 less than we budgeted on our food/toiletry/cleaning supply spending this past week, and only have to get some locally grown ground beef and ground pork. I got a much-needed hair cut on Tuesday, always nice because the week before my appointment my curly hair becomes “poofy,” as the girls call it, and I’m miserable.
- Grateful for: My mom paid for all of her assisted living and memory care expenses, and her travels, out of her savings, and after over 11 years of care there is apparently almost nothing left in her accounts, so I’m especially thankful (and was surprised) that she had put something aside specifically for the girls’ graduation presents.
- Bonus question: What are your favorite New Year’s Day memories? Last year I wrote about growing up in Southern California and seeing the Rose Parade every year, but celebrating the New Year in Japan also provided lots of special memories. It’s the biggest holiday of the year there, and like our Christmas holiday a time for families to gather. When we lived in Yokohama all the ships in the harbor would start blowing their horns at midnight on January 1 which was very exciting – they would go on for over an hour. Twice we went into Tokyo to the Imperial Palace on New Year’s Day to see Emperor Hirohito and the royal family (Banzai! Banzai! Banzai!), and we tried going to the Meiji Shrine one year but had to leave because of the crowds – I’ve never experienced anything like it before or since. Almost all businesses in Japan shut down for around five days starting January 1, but the roads were always clear of traffic which was a treat for us foreigners (who hated the usual traffic). Traditionally there is no cooking for the first few days of the new year; all cooking of osechi-ryori (traditional New Year’s foods) is done ahead of the date. Most people these days though order their osechi from department stores rather than cook all the different foods themselves. One year our neighbors ordered osechi-ryori for us – very special, and very tasty!
What are you doing today to welcome the new year?
Here’s to a happy and prosperous new year, no matter what it brings!